Thank you for contacting me about the safety of the wider re-opening schools for some pupils. Protecting the health and safety of the British public is, and must always be, our number one priority. That goal has guided the Government’s actions so far, and will continue to do so, both now and in the future. I can assure you that the Government will do nothing that puts our children and their teachers at risk.
As you may know, the Government has now said that children in early years settings, and in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 can return to school, based on all of the evidence, including the Government’s five tests. The welfare of children and staff is at the heart of all decisions being taken on this issue.
Primary schools may be able to accept pupils from years other than Reception, Year 1 and Year 6–but we are not changing the guidance on class sizes or social distancing. Where schools have capacity within that framework, we hope they will be able to welcome some children not in year groups currently eligible. While some schools may not be able to reopen immediately, we will continue working with the sector to ensure any schools facing difficulties will be able to open as soon as possible.
The Government is giving schools the detailed guidance and support they need to put appropriate protective measures in place, which include ensuring pupils do not attend if they, or a member of their household, has symptoms of coronavirus, as well as minimising contact and cleaning surfaces more frequently. Class sizes will also be reduced and we will ensure pupils stay within these small, consistent groups, creating a protective bubble around them.
All school staff and children, and their families, will be able to be tested for the virus, meaning that test and trace approach can be taken to any cases which occur. This phased return is in line with what other European countries are doing to get their own schools, colleges and nurseries back. Taken together, these measures will create an inherently safer system, where the risk of transmission is substantially reduced–for children, their teachers and also their families. As the Education Secretary has said, every one of us wants the very best for our children and we know how stressful this time has been for many families.
The Government’s approach is based on the best scientific advice, with children at the very heart of everything it does. For the very latest guidance and most up-to-date advice, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.